The AMA with Pedro Dias was held on October 8th, 2015. This transcript has been edited for punctuation, grammar, etc.
Hi all, I’m Pedro Dias, managing partner and Director at apis3 (https://apis3.com.br) a digital performance agency in Brazil. I’m Portuguese (from Portugal) but I’m living in Brazil now. I’m also an ex-Googler from the Search Quality/Webspam team where previously I worked as a Webspam Analyst, fighting spam and improving the quality of search results.
Do you believe you were able to help the quality of the search results while working at Google?
I do believe yes I worked hard with the team on that goal.
Here’s a question: How good are third party metrics that rate spam-iness – ala Moz’s spam score?
I haven’t looked deeply at what Moz does with their spam score tool. But scoring spam is tricky, so in many cases I wouldn’t expect any machine to accurately be able to tell what’s spam from what’s not spam.
Any notable situations that you remember dealing with that you found interesting?
I remember dealing with a lot of bugs, because when it comes to non-English languages, search engines still have some difficulty in bringing up what you expect in more long tail queries.
What tools do you use in your current position?
I use mostly crawl tools… It’s unbelievable the amount of websites that have a poor architecture or internal linking structure… Then they rely primarily on “linkbuilding” services to lift them up.
What is your reply to folks who say “SEO is Dead, Google is getting too smart”? (not saying I agree but it’s something I see daily)
As long as there are Search Engines, SEO will always exist. Machines are still a bit behind of understanding humans and the ways we express ourselves. So I wouldn’t kill it just yet… It may have evolved from the earlier pure technical principles, but definitely it’s very alive.
Was everything machine-based or was there human intervention when you were there?
Not everything is machine based. There is a huge effort for automation and algorithmic implementations, but the amount of false positives are a concern… That was one of my tasks while at Google, to educate and train the machine.
Any favorite crawlers? Screaming Frog / Link Slueth?
My favorite crawlers are definitely DeepCrawl and Screaming Frog. Each has their own particularities… For instance, I prefer DC to look at huge site structures, and use SF to do some more granular work.
In your opinion, what is the best way for a new website to gain links?
The best way for a website to gain links it to solve a problem… Give something to your audience that really solves a need, either informational or otherwise.
Ola tudobemWhat differences/similarities in approach do you see when it comes to fighting spam at Google Search vs. search engines within sites like Quora, Youtube, Pinterest?
Fighting spam at Google can go from the most obscure thing to the most commercial one… There are a lot of verticals and tactics because the search engine is open. Once you go to a specific platform like Twitter, Quora, LinkedIn, etc. the spam and manipulative exploits are limited and not so broad. Doesn’t mean it isn’t difficult though…
I may be going a bit wild here… But if two people in Google would like to be intimate is there a room for that?
At Google I believe there is no “designated room.” Nevertheless I’m sure Google buildings have hotels nearby.
Hey, a competitor of ours is pushing out 30+ fake reviews on Google local, and they jumped up in search results. We reported them, and nothing. Is there a way to get them penalized?
After you reported the reviews did you seek help in the Google Business Help forum? https://productforums.google.com/forum/#!forum/business If not, I recommend you do so. Explain your case there.
Okay, I will look into it. Thought maybe you had an insider’s secret.Thank you!
Also the fact they’re ranking higher or lower might not be directly related with their reviews or the negative reviews they leave on your page… Sorry, I promised my family in a NDA… No secrets can be shared.
Top 5 perks @google GO!
1) Free food 2) Lots of Traveling 3) No micro management, you have the keys to your success 4) Lots of interesting and smart colleagues 5) Free gym inside.
Top 5 secrets you’re not allowed to share, go!
1)**** 2)**** 3)*** **** and **** 4)******* but **** especially with Panda and Penguin 5)**** is crucial.
Do you believe link building in any way that is automated (not fully automated, just partially – like submitting a manual article, etc.) is still beneficial to someone?
Google really hates most automated efforts to create content or links… It often results in a very poor quality material.
Ok, can you explain the story about the snuggie? You may pass.
Snuggies… Rand had a difficult time identifying the reasons for some “issues”… I lent him an investigative hand. I had no stake in any of the sides involved…
Do you agree with the recourse that happened to the individual shortly after that?
I stopped following the story after I identified the cause. So no.I mean no, I’m not acquainted with what happened, so I can’t agree or disagree.
Basically 50%+ of his properties (including 100% legitimate/whitehat ones) were wiped out in a single night a day or two later.
Pedro is there any new link types that boost rankings like back in the day?Pligg in 2010-2012v.
Yeah, I remember DMOZ and article submission sites used to work for a period… But nowadays I recommend you stay away.
How much does site speed have to-do with ranking?
It’s basically a tie breaking factor, much like HTTPS. But with mobile being more and more prevalent I would put a bit more weight on it.
Pedro, as a 3rd year CS major, if given the opportunity to intern at Google and a handful of other companies, should I take their offer?
You definitely should… It will definitely open your horizons.
No agreement for not doing SEO after working on the webspam team?
I’m not sure I understood your question… I went into SEO because I believe good work can be done without recurring to tricks and manipulation… So far I’m proving myself right.
I’m talking about NDA from google. You may pass.
You ranking for any major terms?Anything with like 60k searches or up?
I don’t do SEO work on my own sites shameful.
SEO who doesn’t SEO their own site? You all about that outbound OR?
I’m busy helping clients. So I don’t do it on my own site, plus WP is pretty good out of the box, so there isn’t much if you have a simple blog, like I do.
Awhile back I read that Google was hiring an in-house SEO guy. Why would they need that?
I believe they wanted an SEO because the sales teams are disconnected from the Search Quality team. So my guess is that would be someone to bridge that gap and work closer with the sales teams.
Do you utilize directory submissions?
The only directory I ever submitted a site was to DMOZ, in 2006 or so.
So you believe that they help if they happen naturally?
They help when you don’t have links at all… After a while it doesn’t really pay off.
What book(s) are you reading right now?
Bad Strategy/Good Strategy is one.
Pedro: when you worked on the spam team, how could you tell the difference between someone doing blackhat and someone who had a competitor perform blackhat to them?
Intentions are quite different. Also the way you do things when you’re manipulating for yourself are substantially different then when you’re trying to frame someone.
What are some triggers or flags that you can share about black hats?Could you give me an example?
There are a lot of signals that can be read… But I can’t talk much about it.
After seeing so many “legitimate” sites get nuked and dirty ones shine, it’s hard to keep my own way straight now a days.
They live in a dilemma… They want to be seen and at the same time they want not to be seen.
True. Those guys are usually guys who just make it and have yet to be burned. I know some 6-7 figure a year guys who are so low key they don’t make a ripple.
I’ve only seen one or two cases where some site was hit with negative SEO… Usually that’s a result of a previous manipulative work that has been done previous to the attack.
One or two?
I haven’t seen one site that hasn’t done manipulation suffer with an external attack.
One or two is a way of saying-
Do you like … not read any case studies, blogs, forums, telegrams, morse code or anything else? It’s been talked about almost weekly for months on end.
I know it has been talked… Usually people talk a lot about these things superficially… What usually happens is someone comes complaining to me that they have been singled out for an attack… But when I investigate and I ask what happened to the site in specific times, they always confess manipulation attempts.
So what you’re saying is we need a public case study you can reference?
Well I don’t like to wash dirty clothes in public… So probably I wouldn’t be blogging about it.
Thanks for doing this AMA, golden opportunity to learn. We are in a B2B niche market. For the top keywords in our industry, the search volume is 100-200 a month (for product keywords) Can exponential growth be achieved by doubling down on organic?
I don’t really like to do growth predictions without actually looking at both the site and the vertical… Heck! Even after looking at them it’s hard to predict anything… I gave my take on predicting growth here
I must say I am pretty surprised by the perception search has with you guys. When did marketers start talking like paparazzi journalists from TMZ! SEO is quite plain and simple and unless you want to kimkardashian your way to organic search success, getting penalized ain’t a worry at ALL.
I would agree with you 2 years ago. Definitely not now.
So what tools does an ex Google guy use for SEO and IM?
Tools. OK so, I use a lot DeepCrawl and Screaming Frog as I mentioned before… I use a lot SearchMetrics too, Ahrefs for link profile auditing and Majestic for profile quality assessment. SearchConsole is a must obviously.I also use a little tool called Robotto that tracks changes in robots.txt and canonicals.
Do you think the new corporate logo/restructuring under Alphabet has been a success?
If success is to focus Google in search and avoid dispersion, then yes.
Awesome. Smart move for Google.
Also it might keep them away from a lot of legal stuff.
What do you mean?
I was referring to their strategy of separating Google from the rest and putting everything under Alphabet… Not the logo specifically.
Ah, I see.
How do you explain what you do to normal people?
I rely a lot on analogies with usability and accessibility principles. Also, I prefer to enter from the User Experience door than from the pure technical SEO door. I use a lot the term “digital presence” to explain what I do.
Interesting. What’s your elevator pitch like?
That’s a tough one… I never thought about an elevator pitch before… at least for the company I run now.
If you had to give someone three things to focus on for doing SEO on their own (think small business owner with 30 minutes a day) what would you tell them?
1) Look after your site structure. 2) Ask your audience for feedback 3) Mobile.
Have you ever been offered bribes to “approve” a site that has been under review?
Ahah… Yes, mainly when I was at Google.
How did they reach you?
I don’t know… Once in 2008 someone actually managed to call my desk phone. People can be very creative… That’s what makes spam fighting also very interesting.
Havehave you ever tried Spam? (as in the canned meat) – If so, thoughts?
No. There was a time the team ordered a bunch of those… I just saw it from the distance, never actually tasted it… I got a T-Shirt with that can and a phrase “I eat spam for breakfast.”
Serious question this time. Do you have any good examples of a small business doing what you consider to be good SEO and getting good results for it?
I don’t work much with small businesses… Most of my clients are big businesses. I can give you one or two examples I know of but those will be local and niche specific sometimesin my case, Brazil specific.
Thanks everyone who participated or lurked. Follow Pedro on Twitter >https://twitter.com/pedrodias and OG on twitter >twitter.com/onlinegeniuses
Thanks everyone… Had a ton of fun.